LOS ANGELES-If you arrived expecting to see one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world Israel Vazquez dominate against Colombia’s Angel Priolo like a high performance race car, well, the engine was a little bogged down with cruddy oil until a late surge resulted in a knockout victory on Saturday.
A pro-Vazquez crowd of 3,303 sat anxiously waiting for their hero to unload against the taller and lanky Priolo (30-8, 20 KOs) at the Nokia Theater, but it was slow in coming as the Colombian landed right hands like a manufacturing plant conveyor belt. It wasn’t pretty and neither was the fight but the former junior featherweight king who beat Rafael Marquez in two of three unforgettable fights used all his tricks to pull out the ninth round knockout win.
It took nine arduous rounds and Vazquez did it with a knockout. He needed it as two judges had it a draw going into the ninth round.
“I was a little rusty,” said Vazquez (44-4, 33 KOs) who spent 18 months undergoing five eye operations to repair a torn retina. Dr. Jerry Sebag who performed the last two surgeries was present at the fight. “He was a very tough fighter.”
Priolo was able to land several hard right hands as Vazquez’ timing was definitely off due to the layoff. Usually Vazquez is harder to hit than what he showed against a bigger but slower opponent in the first round.
The second round was better for Vazquez as he found a spot for two counter right hands that landed flush on Priolo’s jaw. The Colombian found it harder to land the right hand but a right to the body did land with a thud.
Priolo returned to the right hand and found it available in the third round as Vazquez continued to search for his defense. Two crackling right hand counters by Vazquez scored in the last 30 seconds.
Vazquez found his timing again in the fourth by stepping up the tempo. A left hook wobbled Priolo and some good parrying and defense made it difficult for Priolo to find Vazquez.
Round five was not a good one for Vazquez who sustained several strafing right hands by Priolo. Vazquez’ face began to swell from the shots taken in this round and before. Though the Mexico City fighter often emerges from a fight with bruising and bloody, this was more than usual.
The sixth and seventh rounds saw both fighters duke it out on the inside as both tried to use their veteran guile in a very close round. Vazquez still looked a mite rusty but willed himself to punch, though he looked winded.
“I was getting tired,” admitted Vazquez.
A visit by the ringside physician added some desperation to Vazquez who proceeded to fight with more intensity in the eighth round. Right hand counters landed for the former world champion.
With blood streaming down his face Vazquez knew the fight was up in the air and continued to attack aggressively in the ninth round when he landed three consecutive right hands to drop the surprisingly sturdy Priolo, who had lost six consecutive fights prior to this fight. The Colombian beat the count and was dropped by a flurry of punches again. He got up, this time a little more shaky. Vazquez looked for weaknesses in his defense and landed a left hook and some rights and lefts that floored Priolo for a third and final time as referee Pat Russell waved the fight over at 2:10 of the ninth round for a knockout.
The crowd seemed to let out a gasp for their hero Vazquez who finally shook out the rust after seven rounds.
“I came with my best tonight,” said Priolo, who seemed to absorb Vazquez’ best shots until the ninth round. “He’s a true warrior.”
Vazquez said he still hungers for another world title.
“I’ve been doing this all my career,” said Vazquez, who also spoke to the crowd. “I was a little rusty but I wanted to knock him out.”
Two judges had the fight a draw after eight rounds and another had Vazquez up by four points.
Priolo was philosophical about the loss.
“Yes, I knew it was a close fight and that I could be winning, but all it takes is one punch to change everything,” Priolo said. “That’s the sport of boxing. One punch can change the end.”
Frank Espinoza, who manages Vasquez, said he expected a tough fight but was nervous about the outcome.
“Whoever fights Israel is going to give his best and come in well prepared,” Espinoza said. “But this guy gave even more than I expected.”
In the end Vazquez won by knockout.
“I’m hungry for another world title,” he said.
Santa Ana’s Ronny Rios (8-0, 4 KOs) hit Ecuador’s John Wampash (1-3-1) with everything for six rounds and finally opened up a cut over the left eye that impaired the gutsy fighter’s vision. Referee Ray Corona stopped the fight at the request of Wampash’s corner at 1:53 of the sixth and last round of the featherweight fight for a technical knockout. It was the first time Wampash had been stopped though he previously fought U.S. Olympian Gary Russell. There were no knockdowns in the fight.
Golden Boy’s new prospect Luis Grajeda (7-0, 6 KOs) passed his first test with a knockout win over formerly undefeated Juan Carlos Diaz (3-1, 2 KOs).
Grajeda of Chihuahua, Mexico and a former Mexican Olympian, used his size, speed and skills to quickly breakdown Mexico City’s Diaz defense. A switch to southpaw by the tall welterweight confused Diaz enough to allow a strafing left hand by Grajeda to drop him in the first round.
In the second round Grajeda used a perfectly-timed right hand to floor Diaz for a second time. A counter right ended the contest at 2:48 as referee James Jen Kin stopped the fight immediately when Diaz landed hard on the floor.
An action packed junior featherweight bout between Khabir Suleymanov (9-0, 4 KOs) and Hugo Ramos (2-4-1) ended in a technical knockout win for the Russian fighter. In three rounds both fighters proved evenly matched as Sulemanov fired a ton a of punches and Ramos scored two knockdowns. One knockdown resulted in Ramos getting a point deduction after continuing to fire on Sulemanov who was floored with a right hand in the second round.
In the third round Suleyman amazingly increased his punch output but Ramos timed the speedy Russian’s combinations with a perfect left hook and down he went again. Both flurried and ended the third round punching. A small cut appeared on Ramos’s right eye.
The fourth and final round saw Suleymanov refuse to slow down and caught Ramos with some combinations that opened up the cut even more forcing referee Pat Russell to have it examined by the ring doctor. The doctor suggested to Russell the fight be stopped and it was at 2:39 of the fourth and final round. The winner of the round would have won the fight.
El Monte’s Ricky Duenas (4-1, 2 KOs) was too quick and accurate for Santa Ana’s Jose Cardenas (1-3) in a junior middleweight contest scheduled for four rounds. Though Duenas was able to land a barrel of punches he couldn’t put Cardenas down. But at 2:09 of the third round referee Ray Corona felt Cardenas was taking too many blows and stopped the fight.